2009 Chevrolet Cup at Seafair

Chevrolet Cup at Seafair

by David Greene

For three of the last four years Miss E-Lam Plus, piloted by Dave Villwock, controlled the Gold Cupper class circuit. Last year the Ellstrom pursued a limited schedule and even took on an associate sponsor for last year’s Seafair. But in 2009 the E-Lam has reasserted its superiority over the field. She has prevailed in three of the four contests of the season by winning this year’s Chevrolet Seafair Trophy.

Over the winter the ABRA changed the fuel flow rule from 4.3 gallons per minute to 4.1 gallons per minute. This was very similar to 1997 when the class went from 4.5 gallons per minute to 4.3 gallons per minute. Dave Villwock, then with Fred Leland, adjusted to this change better than his opposition by taking six of the first eight races blanking Budweiser and putting the fear of Anheuser-Busch in Bernie Little, who hired Villwock shortly thereafter. Now apparently Villwock has adjusted better than his competitors as, before the season, it appeared that there would be at least four if not five front runners.

For this Seafair race, his main challenger was Oh Boy! Oberto, the defending High Point champion, that had just won at the Tri-Cities.

The Oberto, piloted by Steve David, was a couple of m.p.h. off of the E-Lam pace before posting the fastest competition lap and heat at the Tri-Cities by a very narrow margin. He defeated E-Lam in one heat from the inside lane when Villwock started in an outside lane.

Interestingly, Graham Trucking, a Ted Porter entry piloted by J. Michael Kelly, was also in the hunt by posting a competitive lap at Detroit and a competitive lap and heat at the Tri-Cities. Unfortunately, Graham Trucking went over in her second heat at Kennewick while running third,and thus shaped up as a dubious contender at Seattle. Her camp mate the Formulaboats was one of the top two boats for 2008, but thus far had not shown front running speed when faced with tough competition.

Billy Schumacher and, his wife Jane had lost their sponsor after 2008. Nevertheless they came up with support in Madison, Detroit and the West Coast in the form of Hoss Mortgage Investors to participate in 2009. Even more, they lost their driver Jean Theoret in the first race at Madison. Theoret ran some laps at the Tri-Cities and was up for competition at Seattle. His replacement J.W. Myers was ready if Theoret decided against running.

Back for another year was Ed Cooper and his Allison powered U-3 running in the Northwest as Grandview On The Lake. Grandview was inconsistent last year, but ran close to the leaders. In 2009 she is still close, but more consistent, although also a little slower.

Approaching contender was Nate Brown’s USNW Express which had improved markedly over her performance in the east. She now is about 5 or 6 m.p.h. off the pace. Her driver Kip Brown got about the same performance out of the boat as his Uncle Nate, who renewed his “Unlimited” driver’s license at the Tri-Cities.

Filling out the field were Mirage Boats.com (Greg Hopp), Buffalo Federal Savings (Ken Muscatel), Miss Albert Lee (Brian Perkins) and Miss Airbag Service (Mike Webster). A surprise entry was Mike Jones U-9 piloted by David Williams.

The Jones entry started life in 1992 as Coors Dry as a Ron Jones double wing entry. In due course Mike Jones decided to retire his four time Gold Cup winner Atlas-Miller in favor of his erstwhile double wing that had been his #2 boat. This reconstituted entry went on to win the Detroit Gold Cup in 2001 and San Diego in 2002. After spending 2004 and 2005 on the beach the Jones entry came back for two years with Chris Bertram in the cockpit. Now David Williams is at the helm. Jones’ boat was a contender in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and perhaps the fastest entry in 2001 and 2003.

Qualifications speeds are listed since, for the first time in the sport’s history, qualifying was a competitive experience thus adding more interest to the pre-race activities.

Hoss Mortgage Investors (150.379) , Formulaboats (149.099), USNW Express (145.514), Graham Trucking (146.935), Mirage Boats.com (145.893) and Airbag Service were placed in heat 1-A. Heat 1-B had Miss E-Lam Plus (154.347), Oh Boy! Oberto (152.548), Grandview On The Lake (149.909), Mike Jones’ U-9 (138.795), Miss Albert Lee (135.399) and Buffalo Federal Savings Bank (zapped into the field by a commissioner’s option) as competition. Buffalo Fed was the 1993 double wing Miss T-Plus that had recently been worked over by Ron Jones Jr. The Muscatel entry maintained her filled-in center section.

The entries for heat 1-A selected lanes exactly corresponding to the order of their qualifying speeds. Hoss Mortgage and Formulaboats had a good battle for the lead throughout the heat. Formula was slightly ahead at the end of lap one with Hoss in front at the end of lap two by nearly a second. Jeff Bernard’s Formula had a little more coming off the final corner and took the heat by a narrow margin. USNW Express was a reasonably good third throughout. Graham Trucking was a surprising fourth all the way. Mirage Boats was fifth. Airbag Services was a distant sixth.

Jean Theoret drove Hoss Mortgage in heat 1-A. He was not 100% having a stamina problem. He ascribed the Hoss second place finish in 1-A to this and relinquished the cockpit to J.W. Myers for the balance of the regatta.

To the surprise of some, top qualifier Dave Villwock chose lane two for his Miss E-Lam Plus in heat 1-B. Steve David took lane one. The piston Grandview was in lane three. Oberto and E-Lam went at it for all three laps, never being more than a second apart. Then off the final turn Miss E-Lam Plus, in a burst of speed, took the heat.

Oh Boy! Oberto was second by half a second. Grandview was a reasonable third until losing power in the final lap and wound up last. Miss Albert Lee was a distant third. Jones Racing was 2½ miles back in fourth. Buffalo Federal Savings did not start.

Perhaps following the Biblical suggestion that the last shall come first and the first shall come last, lane choice for heat two inverse order of performance in heat one. This was to even things as the fast boats were able to increase their advantage in heat one and thus should be appropriately handicapped for heat two.

In order of “mediocrity” in heat one Grandview, Jones Racing, Graham Trucking, Oh Boy! Oberto, Formulaboats and Ellstrom’s E-Lam Plus were drawn for heat 2-A. Buffalo Federal Savings, Airbag Services, Mirage Boats, Miss Albert Lee, USNW Express, and Hoss Mortgage were similarly selected for heat 2-B.

Grandview took full advantage of the situation, selected lane one and led Oh Boy! Oberto by two seconds after lap 1, about 3 seconds after lap 2 and then nearly five seconds at the finish. Steve David selected lane three with Villwock taking lane four. Oberto stayed ahead of E-Lam to take second, but the latter came on in the final lap to make the finish close. Graham Trucking was a good fourth. Formualboats was a not so good fifth. Jones Racing was way back in sixth place.

Hoss Mortgage was forced into lane 5 for the start of heat 2-B but won anyway by a good margin. USNW Express stayed with Myers for a lap and then settled into second place. Miss Albert Lee was back in third place. Mirage Boats.com was washed down, but restarted to finish last. Buffalo Federal Savings and Airbag Services failed to start.

Miss E-Lam Plus (625), Grandview On The Lake (521), USNW Express (375) , Mirage Boats.com (296) , Jones (264) and Buffalo Federal Savings (000) were drawn for heat 3-A. Hoss Mortgage Investors (700) , Oh Boy! Oberto (600), Formulaboats (521) Miss Albert Lee (450), Graham Trucking (338) and Airbag Services (95) were placed in heat 3-B.

This time Miss E-Lam Plus chose lane one for heat 3-A. Her only meaningful opposition, Grandview, took lane two and stayed reasonably close to Ellstrom E-Lam for a lap and then dropped off the pace in lap two. Cooper’s Allison powered U-3 tried the inside lane for lap 3 and closed the gap to some degree to the winning Ellstrom.

Mirage Boats was third all the way, but illegally changed lanes, being assessed a one lap penalty, and finished. USNW Express was a distant third with Buffalo Federal Savings even further back in fourth. Jones Racing got fifth place points.

Hoss Mortgage selected lane one for heat 3-B with Oh Boy! Oberto in lane two. Formulaboats was in lane 3. All three boats came off the first turn together and dueled down the backstretch with Graham Trucking close behind on the outside. At the end of lap one Oberto was slightly ahead of Hoss with Formulaboats beginning to falter.

During lap 2 Hoss poked its nose out front on the backstretch, but at the end of the lap Oberto, on the outside, still held a slight lead.

On the final lap Oberto and Hoss were still side by side and then Oh Boy! Oberto asserted herself by 100 feet at the finish. Hoss was second. Formula Boats was third,with her teammate Graham Trucking accounting for fourth. Miss Albert Lee was a distant fifth. Airbag Services failed to start.

Miss Albert Lee(511), Graham Trucking (507) , Mirage Boats (~) and Buffalo Federal Savings (169) were rounded up for the provisional heat. Jones Racing(391) and Miss Airbag Services (95) demurred.

Brian Perkins selected lane one for the Provisional, but it did her little good. Mirage Boats broke in front with Graham Trucking by her side. They remained together at the end of the lap, with Kelly having the inside. On the second backstretch Graham had a slight advantage. At the end of the lap Graham was still in front with Mirage hot on her tail. On the final turn of the heat Mirage pulled Graham, but was penalized a lap for jumping the gun. Miss Albert Lee thus was second 15 m.p.h. behind the leader. Federal Savings was a similar distance back in third. Greg Hopp, in the penalized Mirage, was last.

Miss E-Lam Plus (1025), lap: 147.6, heat: 145.6, Oh Boy! Oberto (1000) 145.5, 145.0, Hoss Mortgage (1000) 143.5, 141.3, USNW Express 4-00 ~~) 136.5, 132.6, Grandview On The Lake (827) 147.3, 143.1, and Formula Boats.com (152) 140.6, 138.5 advanced to the final heat. They were joined by the trailer Graham Trucking, 141.2, 140.0.

Miss E-Lam Plus was the quickest boat and defeated Oh Boy! Oberto by a slight margin in heat one. In the second heat when they were competing for the runner up position. Oberto prevailed. Since E-Lam was behind by about 500 points for the High Point Championship at the time, they were not playing patty cake out there. Grandview exploited the inside to beat both the above boats in heat two, but would not have the inside for the final. Villwock picked the inside with David taking lane two setting up an interesting confrontation for the final heat.

Miss E-Lam and Oberto were together on the first backstretch of the final heat, but the Ellstrom entry had a roostertail lead by the end of lap 1. Miss E-Lam gained on the second lap, but crossing the line heading into lap three Oh Boy! Oberto was not that far behind.

In 2008 Miss E-Lam Plus was the #5 boat statistically with regard to speed. That year she did not cross the finish line of a final heat in first place. Now she is back in the saddle as the outstanding boat she was in 2005 and 2007. But in order to repeat her High Point Championships of those seasons she will need to muster all of her advantage as she is behind Oh Boy! Oberto by 249 points with eight heats to go. Driver Steve David drove more consistently than his antagonists last year and will have to do the same this year to retain his season Championship.

Grandview On The Lake is four to six m.p.h. slower than last year. However her rate of heat completion has risen from 42% to 60% Also unlike last year the U-3 has posted a second place (at Seattle).

Graham Trucking is Ted Porter’s second boat this year piloted by J. Michael Kelly in place of Mike Allen, who garnered the most points in 2006. Last year and in 2007 Formula Two was not really in the hunt. But this season with Kelly in the irons the U-7 was 2 m.p.h. behind E-Lam at Detroit and then at the Tri-Cities. At Detroit Graham could not manage a heat win. However at the Tri-Cities she won heat 1-B only one m.p.h. behind the heat speeds posted by E-Lam and Oberto. Unfortunately, in his second heat Kelly went over. Footage of this made MSNBC. Chastened by the flip the U-7 did not rise above fourth place at Seattle. Refinement of the entry might produce another contender. Her sister ship Formulaboats.com is running about 8 m.p.h. behind her pace of last year.

The U-37 is now Hoss Mortgage Investors. After the 2008 season Jane and Billy Schumacher were disappointed by some of the results. With a little luck they might have won four of the five races. After Madison J.W. Myers, who won the Madison race in 2005, replaced their champion driver Jean Theoret.

Theoret was Dave Villwock’s main competition in 2006 winning three races as did Villwock. In these last two races Myers has kept the U-37 in the fight. But Jean Theoret’s return might give the E-Lam and Oberto some anxious moments in the upcoming races.

The Boeing bio fuel boat was back in action at Seafair at least in qualifying. Friday night she was the fastest qualifier after being 8 m.p.h. off the pace in 2008. Boeing is testing this fuel in a boat because it is less expensive to test in this setting than in an airplane. Chip Hanauer, possibly the greatest driver of all time now that Dave Villwock has had one outstanding season after another since coming back with Ellstrom in 2005, may be pressured to run this boat in competition next year. Chip Hanauer had been banged up in four of his last six seasons in the sport to the extent that he needed a substitute driver for at least one race.

Hopefully Chip will stay on the beach where he supplies excellent television comentary for the Seattle race.

The bio fuel initiative by the A.B.R.A. and Boeing could yield some important dividends. This could markedly help the United States get off its dependence on foreign oil and thus focus much favorable publicity on the sport.

Another initiative of note is the A.B.R.A. putting a race on the Arabian peninsula. The deal was signed at Seafair. This could lead to meaningful international competition missing from the sport since the 1930’s. This certainly could get the attention of the national sporting media and thus result in more National sponsorships for the A.B.R.A.

After charging admission for over 20 years Seafair has finally announced paid attendance figures at 60,000. This gave them a significant profit and the sport an immediate shot in the arm.

[Reprinted from Thunderboat, October 2009]